Hundreds of villagers defied warnings of a major eruption at one of Indonesia's deadliest volcanos, leaving refugee centers Wednesday and returning to homes along its slopes to tend to crops and animals.

Mount Kelud, which has been showing signs of increased activity for several weeks, was placed on the highest alert level late Tuesday, meaning scientists believe an eruption may be imminent.

The 5,679-foot volcano last erupted in 1990, killing dozens. In 1919, a powerful explosion destroyed a hundred villages and claimed 5,160 lives.

Local authorities began mandatory evacuations of around 30,000 people living within six miles of the peak late Tuesday, mostly women, children and the elderly. Many men refused to leave, according to an Associated Press reporter on the mountain.

On Wednesday morning, hundreds of people left temporary evacuation camps in rented trucks and returned to their villages, complaining they had received no food and saying they must tend crops.

"There was no food at all," said Darmiashiah, a 33-year-old woman who returned to the village of Sukiwaras, well within in the evacuation zone. "If I get told to leave again, I will not go," said Darmiashiah, who goes by a single name.

Unlike some volcanos, Mount Kelud does not smoke or rumble.

"It never shows its true nature," said government volcanologist Surono, who goes by a single name. "It is better to raise the status than see people killed."

Kelud, on Java island about 385 miles east of the capital, Jakarta, is one of the most active of Indonesia's estimated 150 active volcanoes. The country sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire — a series of volcanos and fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.